Cooperative learning seating

One of the things that Kagan advocates is classroom seating. At my previous school I HAD to have my tables in rows. When I tried to move them into my preferred U shape I was forced to move them back into rows after a short period. So now I’m in my new school I was pleased to see that my classroom seating already looked like it was in a U shape and until today it stayed that way.

The reason why I like the U shape is that I feel I can see all my pupils from one vantage point, it enables pair work, and it allows all pupils to see the centre of my room with the visual displays – either posters or power points. I have found, however, that chattier groups take advantage of having people around them, and opposite them, I cannot access every single pupil’s desk if I have a full group of 32 in and if I want pupils to work in groups, or to do activities more suited to 4s (typically, cooperative learning structure activities) it is a bit more difficult.

I never thought I’d want tables of 4s, but this morning’s PSHE lesson lent itself to rearranging my room and I’ve decided to keep it that way for a week or so. My Year 10s responded well to it after lunch (a lesson in which they can sometimes get a bit rowdy), and my form liked it too. It also has some other admin advantages such as making it easier to get glue sticks out to stick in sheets with just 1 per table, or handing out sheets. Even team points can be linked to table teams and I think it is also a good opportunity to reassess my seating plans now I know most of the children and am used to my groups.

I’ll let you know how it goes!



  1. Hi Samantha
    I am loving your blog – having only just found it… but subscribed straight away!

    I am about to start my PGCE placement with the OU (at a school where I’ve been teaching for 8 years, at GCSE and A Level, so I’m doing it all a bit back to front!) and have to consider an area of research for my small scale study dissertation. I have been interested in the impact that different seating plans and visual classroom displays have on students learning… and so am interested to know how you felt about your trial of having tables in groups of 4, rather than usual rows or a horseshoe… Did you feel they benefitted? did you leave it like that? (if you had any ideas of where I coud find more on this subject, I’d be really interested….)

    I’m loving your blog and finding lots of interesting ideas and things for me to consider and try! Keep it up, you’re very inspiring!

    Many thanks
    (Watford area)

    • Hi Sarah

      Thanks for your lovely comment.

      I am a massive fan of language on the walls in displays. (Un?)Fortunately my school has just moved into a brand new BSF building which has dictated a few things for me at the minute. 1) nothing is allowed on the walls, which is why I have created the cheat sheets 2) the department teach in a variety of rooms in our Communications Learning House (shared with English) so we can’t really personalise things yet 3) the layout of the new rooms mean that some classes have rows, others have 4s, others 6s! My favourite used to be U-shaped as it allowed for pupils to face the front or do pair work quite easily.

      The research on seating pupils in groups of 4 is to do with cooperative learning, also known as Kagan, something developed by Dr Spencer Kagan. Find his stuff and you should be on your way!

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